There’s this great yoga teacher here in Austin that I studied with regularly for a year or so about a year ago. In the classroom, she is very engaging and knowledgeable, she puts together a killer sequence and she has a syllabus that takes her students on a journey through the body and how it works together that is so satisfying and great. She has encouraging words and a large student following. In my mind, she is “making it” as a yoga teacher and I really like her…as a teacher.
But there’s some misconnect when I try to have a conversation with her. I’ve been mystified by this because I consider myself pretty good at engaging and talking with people and I think I’m pretty friendly. But she doesn’t even notice and my mind/ego doesn’t know what to do with this except to come up with a list of reasons I really don’t like her and then tack on some self-denigrating explanations as to why every conversation I have with her is awkward and uncomfortable–for me at least.
There are all sorts of reasons a person might not want to talk. I get it. If you ask me, I’ll tell you that this thing with Yoga Teacher is no big deal and no, I don’t get that emotional about it and no, I don’t care that much. But I had to admit something to myself earlier today, I want her to like me and it bothers me that she doesn’t. When I saw her in the parking lot before class this morning I tried really hard to get her to pay attention to me. I walked her way and immediately started asking about some facebook post of hers and her classes and her life. It was eager, but not excessive—less than 2 minutes, as we walked from parking lot to studio. We got inside and I was wrapping up my nervous/like-me-please chatter when she saw someone else she knew. I was mid-sentence and thought she was listening when she turned her face to the left to start a conversation with someone else. I’m not kidding. Right over my shoulder. It was like I wasn’t even there.
In that moment of thinking we were connecting but then seeing I was being ignored, I had this unpleasant feeling arise. It was the feeling of not being pretty. Now, I need to be clear. This wasn’t a thought. It’s not like I go around asking my magic mirror how pretty I am all the time. I don’t think about prettiness that much these days, actually. Whatever this pretty-thing was was a deep memory-feeling that I can’t explain, but I sure did recognize. It was from a time somewhere back there in the old days when I thought that pretty and being noticed went together and I tried really hard to be both. I’m talking about childhood. Maybe middle school, definitely high school—imagine makeup and high bangs and boys and Cielo Vista Mall. That old stuff bubbled up right there in the middle of my 36-year-old morning. It was this sense that even though I try, I just might not be pretty enough, and it didn’t feel good.
Isn’t that amazing?
I go around not thinking that I even care that much and then I have the “I’m not pretty” feeling. As the reaction settled down, I became quite mystified and fascinated by how my mind and my imagination and my memory are all working together to remind me that I want/have wanted some validation from the outside in this specific way and I didn’t get it and this is how it feels/felt. I so wanted YT to take me onto her lap, look me in the eyes and tell me I’m actually pretty enough… for what, exactly? I don’t even know. But there it was—the wanting and not getting.
Being able to just notice that she triggered a whole bunch of the not pretty feeling in me was something. And what happened after that was even more interesting. Somehow, I managed to stay with the interest in my not pretty feeling instead of obsessing over her rudeness and getting angry. (This is remarkable for me.) And in class, I didn’t go through Surya Namaskar A thinking that I was unworthy. I did give myself a little more time in child’s pose because I thought that the kid in me who was struggling with not feeling pretty might need some encouragement and gentleness. And then, in the day that followed, I eventually found a tiny opening to let YT not be my best friend and still allow myself to like her as a person and appreciate what she offers our yoga community. Yoga feelings are beautiful and hard and messy. I’m trying to let more of an opening happen there, too.